MM&E SHOWS Planners it’s EASY Being GREEN: 2008 St. Louis Regional Expo Review

June 1, 2008

2008 St. Louis Regional Expo Review

By Julia M. Johnson

Any business can embrace the health of our planet, but the meeting and event planning industry is in a unique position to do so.

That was the message of the Missouri Meetings & Events Expo, PLAN it GREEN™, held March 24-25, 2008, at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. The expo offered planner attendees a focused opportunity to network with suppliers and identify vendors that are committed to preserving the environment. Its goal was to serve up tangible ways planners can reduce waste, encourage recycling, conserve energy, use organic products, cut costs and more. Many planner attendees called the expo an effective one-stop shop for ideas on how their meetings and events can better respect the planet and Mother Nature.

Christy Conrad, assistant vice president for public relations at St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car, opened the expo Monday evening with a presentation about the myriad ways in which her company keeps its eye on the environment, from reforestation efforts to the reduction of harmful emissions. Tuesday’s educational presenters were Robert Bockserman of Conatech Consulting Group, who spoke about recycling and packaging issues; Maritz Travel Inc.’s Ann Gravette, Karen Zimmerman, Kathryn Hargrove and Mauna Speer, who challenged attendees to implement practical ways of making meetings eco-friendly; Stan Fine, author of Business Boot Camp for Women, who offered helpful ideas on trade show success; and Rob Schaefer of Steven Becker Fine Dining, who spoke about “green” and organic catering and event planning.

And throughout the event, attendees were welcomed by a slate of more than 70 exhibitors in the Recycle Row trade show hall. They ranged from hotels, attractions and resorts to food vendors, CVBs and transportation providers.

Tuesday’s luncheon keynote speaker was Richard Gaines of The Daniel and Henry Co., who enlightened attendees about the complex business of insuring meetings and events. John O’Leary of Rising Above topped off the expo Tuesday afternoon with a funny and moving presentation about surmounting personal obstacles.

“I needed to hear this speaker. Now I feel great,” said one independent planner about the presentation by O’Leary, who beat numerous odds following a childhood burn accident that nearly cost him his life two decades ago.

Another planner raved about Rob Schaefer’s humor and “fresh ideas,” and yet another commented on the “very practical information” presented by the Maritz Travel team.

The expo “gets better every year,” said another attendee in summing up the event.

Throughout the expo, musical entertainment was provided by flamenco guitarist Ronald Radford and vocal artist/guitarist Jessica Sonner. Breakout exhibits included environmentally sustainable clothing sold by Webster Groves-based Boutique Chartreuse; Wii game demonstrations by Hospitality Audio Visual Services; and sales of Stan Fine’s new book, “Business Boot Camp for Women.” Drawings were held for a number of attendance prizes, including a trip for two to Riviera Maya, Mexico, St. Louis Cardinals tickets and golf getaways.

Exhibitors from all over the state came to connect with attendees interested in showing their “green.” Office products supplier Pedro’s Planet collected guests’ cups and bottles for recycling, and the Hatch conference facility staff handed out blue spruce seedlings. Kleertech displayed conference badge, tag and lanyard products made from recyclable materials, and the nonprofit Amphibian Ark encouraged attendees to support the rescue of endangered frog and toad species – just to name a few.

“The (educational) sessions provided many resources on how to make my meetings more green and eco-friendly,” says Sara Fry, a continuing education coordinator for the Missouri Nurses Association in Jefferson City. “I wish only that more of my co-workers could have attended to learn everything first hand. The presenters caused me to think outside the box and be responsible and creative during the planning of my events.”

“I also plan to research purchasing more environmentally friendly promotional items for my upcoming events through the suppliers I met,” Fry says. “All in all, it was a great experience. The exhibit hall was very full, and I made many new contacts. I’m sure one of the hardest meetings to plan is an event for planners, so hats off to Missouri Meetings and Events.”

Cynthia Banks, owner of Weddings Made Simple in St. Louis, said she made a number of key supplier connections during the expo. “There were a few vendors that I needed to find, and I was quite successful in doing so,” Banks says. “I feel that this was a great way to find them other than the old ‘seek and Google.’”

Linda Giger, a conference planner with MO-CASE (Missouri Council of Administrators of Special Education) in Rolla, found the exhibits especially useful and easily navigated. “I found many new companies and suppliers that I will certainly use in the coming months,” Giger says. “Being new at this, I could not have done without the personal interaction we were allowed to have with the vendors. The schedule for that was great.”

“I will be able to use the information I learned with my clients,” Banks says. “We all have to be conscious of what is going on around us, and become more earth-friendly.” MM&E

(Julia M. Johnson is the Assistant Editor from St. Louis, Mo.)

The staff at Missouri Meetings & Events is committed to addressing attendees’ concerns and suggestions for future improvement. Some guests voiced concern about their ability to hear Tuesday’s lunch keynote speech by Richard Gaines; to listen to his presentation in its entirety, please visit

Missouri Meetings & Events gratefully acknowledges the support of its advertisers, expo sponsors (see logos on page 36), as well as those who donated the grand prize, including Veronica White of Time II Travel, Inc., and Beatriz Bustos of Barceló Maya Palace.

Attendees wishing to provide additional Expo suggestions and feedback are welcome to e-mail Missouri Meetings & Events at [email protected] Stay tuned for upcoming information about MM&E’s Kansas City Expo September 8-9, 2008! MM&E

A Special Thank You To:

Those who donated door prizes:


Melting Pot

Schlafly’s Brewery

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Studio HAO Wellness Massage Therapy

Wax Museum at Laclede’s Landing

Solar Night Industries

The Magic House


All of our volunteers, including the students from:

The Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks in Hollister, MO

Missouri State University in Springfield, MO

Boutique Charteuse in Webster Groves for the glamorously green mannequin displays

The emcee of the expo:

Gordon Montgomery, president of

Q Media, LLC.

[email protected]



Paper Award:

Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau

Plastic Award:

Cedar Creek Conference Center

Editor’s Choice Aluminum Award:

Destination St. Louis

Planner’s Choice PLAN it GREEN™ Award:

Morgan Street Brewery

About the author

The MEET® Family of Publications

The MEET® Family of Publications produces regional and national publications that keep corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant industry suppliers, news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their upcoming company function(s).